Snow and Economic Bellwethers in North Carolina
I am sitting in a small Italian eatery in Durham, North Carolina – thinking about my morning and about how welcome the construction sounds outside my Raleigh hotel room were just after waking, and the owner comes over to my table and asks me about my hero, and I tell him that it is perfect and share with him my thoughts on construction-noise-as-desired-music-in-this-fragmented-economy.
And I am remiss in not considering his empty restaurant in the sharing of my thoughts.
According to the News & Observer, North Carolina is disturbingly equal in its exposure to the thrashings of the general national and global economy. The state has long been a growth model for both high-end enterprise information technology and for foundational manufacturing. In fact, manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of the state economy – and there is growing concern on the sector’s exposure to the health of overseas economies.
Looking more closely at the information technology sector, the News & Observer notes, “North Carolina-based tech companies had 4,000 jobs open in December.”
However, there is so much speculation in technology now that it is not appropriate for anyone to make a call positive or negative. The most visible example of this is found in the discrepancies between Microsoft’s most recent and embarrassing financial results and the broad successes of IBM’s same measured period. The general press wants to read into a broad demise of tech, but IBM’s achievements completely mess with the formulas. The bottom line is that tech is an unclear picture, and North Carolina tech companies – like Red Hat and SAS – cannot be written off with Microsoft’s unrelated results. IBM is piloting virtual desktops for enterprise while Microsoft has not delivered a pulse since Windows 98.
The space between the lines needs to be read and to be understood.
The restaurant owner nods kindly in agreement and does not really speak to it. It could be that he is not interested in metaphors and the rants of a random customer, with the aforementioned empty restaurant in mind.
And our tepid and courteous small talk turns decidedly smaller when we engage in an analysis of North Carolina’s recent snow accumulation, which stretches now in ribbons along the highway medians and the marauding woods that delightfully divide so much of everything here.
As I live in the considerably cooler Northeast, I tell him of my amusement in the black ice warnings that have closed schools in the Raleigh-Durham area, and his response is sober.
“We’re never prepared for this,” he says.
And then he goes on to describe a twelve-car pile-up that happened just the other day on one of the highways.
And I consider this and think that maybe I should provide a comparable story, and for some inexplicable reason the only thing that comes to mind is the time a Slovakian cab driver in Manhattan directed my attention to two uniformed police officers who were throwing punches at each other and who were spilling into the street awkwardly.
The cabbie just tapped the plastic barrier between us and said, “Disorderly conduct in action, my friend.”
And he laughed and I joined him in laughing – because there was an anonymous camaraderie there – and we drove by the huffing struggle.
I decide not to share my story for concerns that I have on the relevance to his clearly unrelated supply chain management tale and remark instead that salt is a strange thing to store and that the state should be happy to not have to deal with the polar reminders that the tilting planet provides us.
And he is happy to check on something in the kitchen, as distractions of a certain kind offer their rewards in days like these.
Tags: North Carolina , Economy , Snow , Winter , Recession , Manufacturing , Information Technology , IBM , Microsoft , Red Hat
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